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THE DECISIONS THAT DEFINE US
At the young age of 18, I enrolled in college. I was in new territory and was truly just excited to be there. I was not a confident student in high school. I always felt praise was somehow laced with pity. Even though I was often praised, I think it embarrassed me more than emboldened. When faced with the decision of picking a major, I thought about it for the entire summer. I considered many options. I thought about teaching, business and law. Strong majors, with strenuous schedules. I considered writing, and even though the thought made me giddy, I knew I was never going to find a career in something so flimsy. The summer ended and I met with my counselor. I declared a major in Journalism. I came to the conclusion that the only way to find a solid career writing, was in Journalism.
I started out energetic and motivated. I was being recognized in class, and for once it felt genuine. I was right where I was meant to be. As the years passed, I was growing tired, and bored. I could feel my passion dissolving. I was approaching my fourth year and googling "What else can I do with a degree in Journalism?"That's when I knew I had picked the wrong path. I couldn't just turn around, I was going to graduate on time and the money was spent. I had no choice but to move forward. When I think back to high school graduation, I felt powerful. I was confident in myself and certain that I could accomplish dreams I never thought possible. When I graduated from college, I was almost late and I couldn't stand most of my peers. I felt small and scared. I grabbed my diploma and smiled falsely.
Journalism wasn't the right path for me. I sunk back into myself and decided I was really good at my job. I was getting praise in my minimum-wage position in fast food. I wanted to be good, I wanted recognition and I wanted to be liked. So I stayed. I got promoted, and I grew. I wanted to keep growing. I didn't love my job, but I loved the attention. I was making as much money as I would have as a journalist but I was done with that dream. Was fast food my dream though?
I began realizing how funny people would look at me when they saw me. The squinted eyes and the raised inflection of their voice. I used to laugh because I was also surprised. I never thought four years at a university would land me a position in fast food. When the joke finally fell flat I was actually disappointed in myself. I let my insecurity get the best of me. I let myself think I'm wasn't good enough. Customers began to get on my nerves. I wasn't able to brush off their impatience or rude remarks. I was no longer amused at how little customers thought of me. It made me angry. I became upset every week, it affected my mental health, my relationships outside of work— everything.
After I left that job, I felt a temporary high. Once again I was feeling unstoppable. I was finally going to do something else, but what? I just spent five years in fast food. I had a degree that has only collected dust since then. I was stuck in a fast food, customer service career path. I painted myself into yet another corner. I enjoyed helping others and serving patrons. I didn't appreciate how those employees were often treated by those patrons. Nevertheless, that was my path. I wasn't going to turn around again.
Then I became a mother and spent time home with my child. I used that time to discover other options for me. I realized I was right. I'm not a journalist but I can write. I love to write. I have to keep writing because that's what I have always wanted to do. I spent so much time deciding what was the most feasible or sensible option, that I didn't consider the longevity of that choice. Not everyone is supposed to be a parent. Not everyone is supposed to teach. Not everyone should be a nurse or a doctor. These careers that are sold to us as "one size fits all" or "anyone can do it"— isn't real. There's a reason 85% of the workforce is unhappy at work.(https://returntonow.net/2017/09/22/85-people-hate-jobs-gallup-poll-says/) I'm not the only one that is trying to think smart and make decisions that are safe. I think if more of us listened to our hearts and evaluated what our needs were we would be more satisfied in our careers.
In college, I learned, "just because you're not being recognized doesn't mean you're failing." I want praise, I'm sure everyone does. As soon as I became a faceless body in a desk, I assumed that role. After college, I learned, "just because you're good at something doesn't mean you love it." I still feel like I could walk into my old fast food spot and run a shift nearly perfect, but I won't. Becoming a parent taught me that I only have one path. This path is winding with switch-backs and sudden stops. I won't let my decisions ruin my journey. I have made it a habit to evaluate myself.
When asked to interview for a job, most applicants anticipate interview questions and prepare their answers. They are eager for a position and often go into an interview with their hearts set on the job, instead of if that job is right for them. That question is left up to the employer to decide. While interest is needed during an interview, applicants should spend time focusing on their needs. Ask questions that matter to you. Pay attention to the work environment while waiting for the interview to start. Can you imagine yourself thriving there? If you are working, but you are unhappy, evaluate your needs. What can change? What is causing the stress? The evaluations that are conducted in the workplace between you and your supervisor aren't just there for you to receive feedback from your boss. It is also a time for you to address issues or problems you have. Most employers want to keep a good employee, so if a small change is all it takes, speak up.
Don't let your career ruin your life. Don't let decisions define you. I was going to be successful as a writer, or I was going to be a successful manager in a fast-food restaurant. I was only going to be happy in one of those careers.
Title image credit: Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels
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